Friday, 23 November 2012

Mining into our hearts, or attentions?

The Chilean Mining crisis of 2010 held our attention as purported global citizens for a long while, with widespread commercial media interest reporting on the personal details and quirks of each miner, in addition to a breathless reporting of the unfolding facts. It’s no surprise the story was so interesting, it combined danger with human interest, words which have a lot of traction in newsrooms. However, the story experienced a high rate of geographical penetration compared to similar disaster stories. Of course as humans we are happy all the miners emerged with no casualties or permanent injuries, a seeming miracle; and that they can return to their families. And of course, during a disaster, the situation and statistics are typically narrated, along with footage; the grief and prayers for survivors are given because of the unspoken knowledge that these are humans in trouble. But what interested me about this crisis was the focus on specific human details.

On top of essential supplies, miners were accommodated other requests such as one’s request to have Elvis Presley songs blasted into the hole; and that man upon release was invited to a free trip to Graceland.

We felt joy as we saw a little girl reunited with her rescued father, and there were some more humorous and risque moments as one miner’s wife and mistress ran into each other outside the mine, as they asked authorities about his welfare. Upon rescue, his mistress was waiting there but not his wife, and he greeted her with a brusque hug and kiss. Who knows how that situation will turn out for them?

These situations often end in death and tragedy, so it is a miracle no one died. But perhaps to distract us from the grim realism we focus on human details, even humorous ones to distract us. Media and corporate interests were all over the miners with offers and free vacations. Was it purely for advertising reasons, or were the media corporations genuinely fond of the resilient miners? More importantly, were we comforted by the triumph of life over death because it made our own problems seem less tangible, or were we sincerely  touched by the rescue? I like to think it can be both.

One thing is for sure, a lot of people who previously knew nothing about Chile, were tuning into the story and sending their prayers.

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